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The Biggest LA Dining Surprises in 2016, According to Friends of Eater

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What shocked the local restaurant world?

Kali Restaurant
Wonho Frank Lee
Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

Bill Esparza, Food Writer

The sheer number of openings.

Oren Peleg, Eater LA Contributor

At the risk of sounding like a broken record: Kato. Wasn't sure what I was getting myself into, but once I found the hidden storefront and started eating — wow. Also, if you haven't been to Howlin' Ray’s, I don't know what you're waiting for. I'm not one for deep-fried anything, but I can't get enough of the X-Hot Fried Chicken Sandwich at Howlin'.

Brigham Yen, DTLA Rising

Howlin’ Ray’s in Chinatown.

Lesley Balla, Zagat, Angeleno

How vegan and vegetarian (or veg-heavy) fare has surpassed what people think vegan and vegetarian fare can be. Think: Destroyer, PYT and Erven.

Jeff Miller, Senior City Editor, Thrillist

When Kali opened on Melrose at the beginning of the year, I did not expect to be blown away. I was blown away.

Katherine Spiers, LA Weekly Food Editor

All of a sudden everyone respects bartenders as much as chefs.

Eddie Lin, Food Writer

Taiwanese food. Lao Tao and Little Fatty breathe new life into the tiny island nation's cuisine through classics like beef noodle soup and then some.

Caroline Pardilla, Eater LA Contributor

This probably doesn't count as "dining" but I was really surprised that Clifton's Pacific Seas opened without having a strong and well-crafted Tiki cocktail program. Huge oversight especially in this day and age of cocktails! Gorgeous place but not for Tiki cocktails.

Sarah Gim, The Delicious Life

Happy, buzzy hype about a vegan restaurant!

Josh Scherer, Food Writer

No one should really be surprised by chicken sandwiches, or tasting menus in strip mall restaurants, or large-format vegetable dishes anymore. L.A.'s been on that trajectory for a while. But I totally didn't expect to get blown away by classic, soul-warmingly untrendy French food like I was at Spring. The precision in that kitchen is just absurd.

Jim Thurman, Eater LA Contributor

That I can’t think of any surprises

Katrina Yentch, Eater LA Contributor

Mr. Holmes Bakehouse — surprising because it's just so flashy and pink and SF for Highland Park? Also Pok Pok’s struggles in Chinatown.

Nicole Iizuka, POPSUGAR Senior Producer

Honestly? Alexander's Steakhouse in Pasadena. I will admit I knew little going into the restaurant other than they featured a lot of wagyu, but BOY was I blown away with what they're serving! Foie-camole, uni espresso, and marrow toast don't even begin to do this menu justice.

Hadley Tomicki, UrbanDaddy

I was excited to see some of LA's most talented young chefs, like Miles Thompson, Ari Taymor, and Jordan Kahn, return with even stronger projects than we'd previously seen. Also, in another year of so many New York restaurants invading LA, it was refreshing to see terrific homegrown places like Maré, Eggslut, and Wexler's Deli spread west, and Night Market spread east. This may or may not be a plea for Ray Garcia to bring something back to the Westside.

Esther Tseng, Eater LA Contributor

This is a close call. I would opt for Here's Looking at You because the dishes are whimsical but substantively delicious; the cocktail menu is astounding and stands on its own. But PYT and Erven collectively have me saying "vegetarian" and "plant-based" without the urge to roll my Californian eyes. Whenever I talk about those two, I always have to chase it with explanations such as, "you don't even miss the meat" and "it's not fast-casual!"

Euno Lee, Eater LA Contributor

Shibumi being a thing! What a pleasant surprise. When I stepped in and ate my crudite out of a massive cedarwood masu I remember thinking to myself, "damn, I hope they get the Orsa treatment from the clientele where they have a really dedicated fanbase that allows them to keep doing what they want to do, because LA needs more places like this." Maybe they did?

Meghan McCarron, Eater Senior Features Editor

Destroyer's existence, its ambition, its constraints, and the fact that a restaurant I've been describing as Sqirl for architects is so warm and welcoming.

Crystal Coser, Eater LA Associate Editor

The mall food at Westfield Santa Anita (shout out Side Chick and Din Tai Fung)

Farley Elliott, Eater LA Senior Editor

Glendale. LA's sleepy stepsister got all dolled up with tons of new openings, and more on the horizon.

Matthew Kang, Eater LA Editor

I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but LA is still the best place to eat in America if you love affordable, international cuisines. I’m also surprised by how social media avenues like Snapchat and Instagram are essentially overtaking traditional and even new online media publications. Adapt or die. Finally, I’m surprised LA didn’t fall in love with Pok Pok. I think Ricker didn’t play his cards well in the beginning but the food is very good and deserves a place in LA’s dining scene. I hope he can hold on and people can realize what’s going on there.